Know the Vote – Veterans Issues


We recently had a Presidential election here in the United States. In all the years that I’ve been following politics this was probably the most contentious election I’ve ever participated in, with hard lines being drawn, accusations being thrown and information and misinformation flying like bullets. So I wanted to write this to inject some facts into one of the issues that seems to be a hot-button topic among a lot of people – veterans issues.

Here’s the truth about how lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted for veteran’s care bills for the last 10 years. All information came from ProjectVoteSmart.com.

HR 4297 – Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005 (1)

-Introduced November 10, 2005

-Passed in the House May 10, 2006; Passed the in Senate May 11, 2006

-Signed into law May 17, 2006

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to adopt a conference report that authorizes and extends $69.96 billion in tax credits and cuts through 2010.”

– Voted for (House): 229 Republicans/15 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 51 Republicans/3 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 2 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 3 Republicans/39 Democrats

HR 1585 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (2)

– Introduced March 20, 2007

– Passed in the House December 12, 2007; Passed in the Senate December 14, 2007

– Signed into law December 28, 2007

– VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.31 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 188 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 46 Republicans/44 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/45 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 1 Republican/2 Democrats

HR 4986 – Defense Authorizations Bill (3)

– Introduced January 16, 2008

– Passed in the House January 16, 2008; Passed the in Senate January 22, 2008

– Signed into law January 26, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.60 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 187 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 45 Republicans/45 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/42 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 0 Republicans/2 Democrats

HR 3221 – Housing Bill with Energy Tax Credit Extensions (4)

-Introduced July 30, 2007

-Passed in the House August 4, 2007; Passed in the Senate April 10, 2008

-Signed into law July 30, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that increases mortgage grants, mortgage limitations, various property assistances to the homeless and veterans, and the line of credit for mortgages under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 4899 – Fiscal Year 2009-10 Supplemental Appropriations (5)

-Introduced March 21, 2010

-Passed the the House March 24, 2010; Passed the Senate May 27, 2010

-Signed into law July 29, 2010

-VoteSmart synopsis: “Vote to concur with the fifth portion of a divided question on a bill that requires the President, no later than April 4, 2010, to submit to Congress a plan for the “safe, orderly, and expeditious” redeployment of armed forces from Afghanistan, including military and security-related contractors, including a timetable for the completion of such redeployment.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 3082 – Continuing Appropriations (6)

-Introduced June 26, 2009

-Passed in the House July 10, 2009; Passed in the Senate November 17, 2009

-Signed into law December 22, 2010

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a resolution that appropriates funds for the federal government until March 4, 2011.”

-Voted for (House): 1 Republican/192 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 25 Republicans52 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 146 Republicans/19 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 14 Republicans/2 Democrats

S 1660 – American Jobs Act of 2011 (7)

-Introduced October 5, 2011

-Bill failed to pass the Senate October 11, 2011

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote on a motion to invoke cloture on a bill that establishes programs designed to increase employment in the United States.”

-Voted for (Senate): 0 Republicans/48 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

HR 933 – Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (8)

-Introduced March 4, 2013

-Passed the House March 6, 2013; Passed the Senate March 20, 2013″

-Signed into law March 26, 2013

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a bill that appropriates funds for the federal government for fiscal year 2013.”

-Voted for (House): 203 Republicans/115 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 20 Republicans/51 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 25 Republicans/1 Democrat

Sources (and to read the full wording of each bill):

(1) http://vot(1esmart.org/bill/3307/8593/27110/tax-relief-extension-reconciliation-act-of-2005

(2) http://votesmart.org/bill/4562/15963/27110/national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2008

(3) http://votesmart.org/bill/6073/16857/27110/defense-authorizations-bill

(4) http://votesmart.org/bill/4650/21324/27110/housing-bill-with-energy-tax-credit-extensions

(5) http://votesmart.org/bill/11452/30599/27110/fiscal-year-2009-2010-supplemental-appropriations

(6) http://votesmart.org/bill/12444/32992/27110/continuing-appropriations

(7) http://votesmart.org/bill/13909/36879/27110/american-jobs-act-of-2011

(8) http://votesmart.org/bill/16279/43150/27110/consolidated-and-further-continuing-appropriations-act-2013





The Boy in McDonald’s


My family and I stopped at a McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri tonight on our way home after a long road trip. We ordered our food to go because we just wanted to get home and we sat down to wait. I went up to fill my drink cup and when I came back, there was a young boy, maybe 8 years old, standing there. My son said the boy had some questions for me. What followed was one of the strangest and saddest conversations I’ve ever had with a stranger:

He asked me if I loved Jesus Christ. I responded that I did. He then asked me if I knew Genesis 9:7 (Go forth and multiply). I said I did not and he proceeded to quote it to me. Then he asked me if I go to church and when I said no he asked me if I ever listen to any sermons. I told him that I sometimes listen to sermons on youtube and he asked me if I ever listed to any by someone named Rockway. I told him that, no, I’d never heard of that man and that I normally just listen to whatever catches my eye.

Up to this point the conversation had been fairly benign, although I will admit that it was a strange conversation to be having with a small stranger in the middle of McDonald’s with the smell of grease and french fries hanging in the air and I had to wonder where this kid’s parents were and if they knew he was talking to random strangers. But this is where the conversation gets very sad:

Boy: “What do you think of the Catholics? Do you think they’re bad?”

Me: “No, I don’t think anyone’s bad.”

Boy: “But they let the gays get married and they let them hold hands and kiss in church and that’s bad.”

Me: “Don’t you think that Jesus would want all of us to be happy? And if the people they love are making them happy than why is that bad?”

Boy: “But Jesus is against the gays.”

Me: “Some people think that, that’s true. But I dont’ think that God would want us to hate anyone, do you? I think that there’s enough hate and meanness in the world that God would want us all to be happy and kind to each other.”

Boy: “I don’t hate anyone.” He’s obviously confused by this point. Then he gestures to my kids. “Would you let them marry someone who’s the same?” I assume he means the same sex.

Me: “Yes, I would. As long as the person they were with treated them right and made them happy than that’s all that matters to me.”

Boy: “I wouldn’t let my daughter marry someone who was the same.” He pauses for a minute, as if he’s unsure of what to say next. “If you think I’m being rude I’ll leave.”

Me: “You’re not being rude. I don’t mind talking to you like this at all.”

He stood there for another few seconds, just looking at me, and then he walked away. About that time, they called our number, we got our food and we left.

But I thought about that boy and the things he said the rest of the way home.

What kind of twisted mind would take the innocence of youth and poison it that way? What kind of person looks at their child and thinks “I must teach them to hate the same people I hate.” Do they not stop to think of the part of their child’s spirit that they may be killing while they plant their vile seeds? Do they not think about the lives that their child may impact in the future with that sort of awful and backwards thinking? Every child has the potential to do great good and, instead of fostering that miraculous potential, these parents decided to foster their own prejudices instead. Even now, nearly 6 hours after the incident as I sit here writing this, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that one concept.

We as followers of Christ have a responsibility to the world to make it a better place. To leave it in better shape than it was in when we came into it. We are to be God’s hands, his feet and his mouthpiece here on Earth and I fully believe that the root of our religion is very simple; Love one another. Every other thing that we will ever do as believers grows from that one basic tenant. And when you teach this concept to children what you’re doing is expanding on what they already know – that everyone is the same and that we’re supposed to be nice to each other. This concept comes naturally for children; it’s something they’re born with. I’ve heard many atheists say that indoctrinating children with religion is akin to child abuse and I always argue against that for the reasons I stated above. How can it be child abuse when you’re just encouraging something that comes so naturally to a child? But meeting this boy tonight might just change my mind. This child was absolutely indoctrinated.

The whole incident left me feeling so sad. Children aren’t born hating anyone. They don’t care what color you are, or what your religion is or whether you or your parents are gay or straight as long as you’re willing to share the cool toys in the sandbox. And someone had taken this child, this impressionable young mind, and they were beating that innocence and goodness out of him. They may not have been using whips or wooden spoons or cane switches, but it was being beaten out of him nonetheless and they were replacing that thing that all children have – that light, that wholesomeness that is the very essence of childhood – with something dark and poisonous. Something that would grow to consume him if he didn’t someday throw it off. That one thing he said, more than anything else “I don’t hate anyone,” tugs at my heartstrings. Because the kicker is that he probably doesn’t hate anyone, not yet. Right now he’s just parroting the things that his parents and the other adults in his life have told him to say. He’s just reading his lines, lines that – at this point – he probably doesn’t even understand.

I don’t know if that boy is even going to remember anything I said when he wakes up in the morning. I don’t know if that meeting is going to change anything for him and I suspect that if he told his parents the details of what I said they probably told him something along the lines of how lost and wrong I was. But eventually that child is going to come to a crossroads in his life – as all believers do – and he’s going to have to decide if he should continue down the path he’s been following his entire life or if he wants to get off that path and tread somewhere else. Somewhere where the light shines on everyone and Jesus’s love doesn’t have to be earned on bended knee. And maybe this is ego speaking but I hope that when that day comes he’ll think of the random stranger in the orange shirt that he talked to in the McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri when he was just a boy and about the things that she said. And I hope that he chooses to walk in the light and leave the darkness behind.


When Love Feels Like Hate


Alright, everyone. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about that phrase that gets thrown around in the religious community almost as much as much as “I’ll pray for you”: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” What does this phrase mean, exactly? Well, it’s supposed to mean that we love everyone but that doesn’t mean that we have to love or condone the sins they’re committing. Just like I have to love my Aunt Margot because she’s family but I don’t have to love the fact that she hauls a flask of rotgut whiskey to family functions and then insists on singing “Put the Lime in the Coconut” at the top of her lungs while we eat dinner.  Seriously, Margot. Stop doing that.

But is that really how we – Christians of the world –  are using this much-used phrase? Are we really loving all of God’s people and just hating the sins they’re committing? Let’s take, for the sake of this post, homosexuality as our example. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That it explicitly states in the Bible that laying with someone of the same sex as you would with someone of the opposite sex is sinful and an abomination before God. Therefore, in God’s eyes, being gay is a sin. But doesn’t God say that we’re supposed to love everyone? Love the sinner, hate the sin to the rescue! So, how do we do that? How do we go about loving another of God’s children the same way God loves us (as we’re commanded to do) while hating their sins?

Well, in the case of homosexuality, we fight against legalizing same-sex marriage so people can’t legally commit that sin. And we encourage conversion therapy for gay youth so that we can cast out the sin. And, of course, we preach our sermons against anything that might promote the homosexual lifestyle because it’s important to keep them away from the sin in the first place. And if the gay people are fully committed to their sin than we have no choice but to pray for them and hope than they come to God and turn away from their heathen ways, returning into the fold, clean and sin-free. We try to warn them of the consequences of their actions, we tell them of the perils of Hell that await them if they don’t turn away from homosexuality, that they can’t possibly get into the kingdom of Heaven with that sinful stain on their souls. Because that’s really all we can do, right? We can show them the way and hope that they take the straight and narrow path.

So we can sleep well at night, fellow Christians, knowing that we’ve done all we can do to love those gay people, those homosexual children of God while still warning them of the wrong that they’re doing. While still hating their sin and trying to turn them away from it. We can rest our heads and knew we did our best.

But what of those gay people? How do they feel about the steps we’ve taken? Put yourself in their shoes and see if you still feel like you’ve loved that sinner the way God would want you to. Imagine that you’ve met someone that you love and that you have proposed to that person and you want to spend the rest of your life with them but you can’t. You can’t stand up before a minister and your friends and family and God and profess your love for them because a particular group of people said that your love is wrong and sinful and it should be illegal. But hey, those people still love you so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a teenager, swimming in feelings that you don’t understand, confused about who you are who is taken from everything comfortable and familiar and put through horrendous mental torture in which you are told that the person you think you are is wrong and sinful and that, if you continue down that path, you are going to burn in Hell for all eternity. But your church family is telling you they love you as you lie sobbing, broken, lost, alone and confused so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a Christian who just happens to be gay, who believes that God loves you because you are His child and, just like any good parent, He loves all His children equally, no matter what. And then you are confronted with other Christians who are telling you that, no, God doesn’t love you the way you are. That you have to change yourself or you won’t be good enough to deserve God’s love. But these people love you so everything – all these hurtful, hateful, mean things they’re saying to you are all okay!

One thing that we Christians are horribly guilty of is picking and choosing which sins are worthy of our time and which are not. We have, for some reason, decided that homosexuality is one that is the big One-Way Ticket to Hell while working on Sunday – one that is a sin punishable by death in the Bible and is so bad it got it’s own Commandment – is almost completely ignored. Where are the people walking through Wal-Mart and Target on Sundays telling all the employees they’re going to Hell for working on the Sabbath? Where are the lines of Christians picketing in front of courthouses to get legislators to pass laws making it illegal to work on Sunday? And what of divorce? I’m a divorced woman and I’ve never, ever been told that I’m going to Hell because I divorced my husband even thought the Bible’s pretty specific about that.

So here’s the bottom line. Our Christian love feels a lot like hate to those on the receiving end of it and that is never something that we should be promoting. That is never something that we should feel good about because that is not going to bring anyone closer to God. In fact, it’s just pushing people further away. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that we made up to make ourselves feel good about passing judgement on other people; people who are doing things that we don’t like. Because it obviously has nothing to do with what the Bible says we should or should not be doing or we would be taking a much stronger stance on closing down Long John Silver’s and not wearing polyester blends. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about us loving the sinner and hating the sin. In fact, it says pretty explicitly that we’re not to judge anyone and that we’re to love unconditionally. It’s God’s place to judge and at the end of it all, we’re all going to have to stand before him and answer for our own lives. So let’s leave the judgement up to Him and just love each other, shall we?


Letting Your Child Be Wild


When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9, my parents took my sisters and I with them when they went to visit a friend of my Dad’s. This friend lived way out in the middle of nowhere, on over 1,000 acres of woods and there was this awesome creek that ran through most of it, complete with a natural waterfall. Next to this waterfall the homeowner had built a gazebo. Even though it was fall when we went and kind of chilly, my sisters and I spent the entire day we were there playing in that gazebo next to that partially frozen creek. We had no toys except the leaves, sticks and dirt around that structure, no screen except our imaginations, no other friends but ourselves and we had so much fun that the memory of that day still sticks with me more than 20 years later.

When I turned 12 my Dad started taking me deer hunting with him. Every year when the air would start to turn crisp and the leaves would begin to turn colors and the days started to get shorter I would get so excited because I knew that hunting season would soon begin. That day would dawn bright and early and Dad and I would get up before dawn. I’d dress in so many layers that I’d feel like the Michelin Man, we’d load all of our gear in Dad’s rickety old truck and drive out to our hunting spot. Once we were there, we’d strap on bags holding our lunch, extra ammo and all those various disgusting smell liquids that my Dad was convinced would cover our scent and make our hunting more successful. Then we’d hike for miles through the pre-dawn woods, trying to be as sneaky as people wearing 50 pounds of clothes could be, stopping every few hours to listen with the breath steaming up in front of us in the chilly wind. Then we’d sit on the cold, damp ground for hours; barely moving, not making any noise, just listening to the woods around us. We rarely actually bagged anything but that wasn’t the point.

I had so many wonderful experiences out in the woods with my Dad. Probably my favorite was when we had a pair of chipmunks playing on the log we were hiding behind. The two little guys ran and played barely 5 feet from us for nearly 20 minutes before they ran off. Then there was the time that we watched a doe and her twins graze in the clearing down the hill from us. And the time we watched a coyote catch and kill a turkey. Those experiences, being that close to nature, helped to shape me into the person I am today.

When I was a child I just knew that I was going to be a veterinarian and one of my favorite things to do was to rescue animals, try to patch them up, and let them go. My Dad ran a glass lizard over with the lawnmower once and cut it in half. He brought it to me, I sewed it’s two pieces back together with cross-stitch floss and bandaged him with Kleenexes and, by God, he survived. I was never so proud as I was when that snakey little lizard slithered away after he healed. I had many more failures – I never could seem to keep injured birds alive – but I always tried nonetheless.

I remember going creek walking when I was a kid and staying behind while everyone else went ahead so I could bang rocks together and try to make arrowheads. I would collect animal bones that I found in the woods and try to identify the species. My sisters and I once spent hours digging a trench through a creek bed so tadpoles trapped in a small pool could swim down to the main creek. We went rock-hunting and mushroom hunting and rode our bikes around town for hours.

My sisters and I weren’t your “typical” girls. We loved to walk and swim in creeks, we were overjoyed at the thought of going creek walking and arrowhead hunting with our parents. We climbed trees and played in mud puddles and touched dead things just to see what we could see. And our parents encouraged our natural curiosity. They never discouraged us from getting dirty, from asking questions or from exploring our world.

People like to blame electronics for the fact that kids these days don’t do the things that I did when I was a kid. But I don’t blame the electronics. We own an PS3,  a Wii, three computers, and each of the kids have their own laptop and they would still rather go outside and play in the rain or ride their bikes through puddles or climb trees than play on the Playstation. The key is for we, as parents, to ignite in our kids the spark of imagination that will carry them throughout their lives. We need to be out there with them, in the dirt and the rain and the woods, learning, exploring, teaching. Making those memories that our children will never forget.

So remember, kids and clothes are washable. And those scrapes, bumps and bruises will heal. But the memories your child makes while getting them will last a lifetime.


On Being the Perfect Parent



What is our definition of a perfect parent? Is it the one who’s house is always clean? The one who’s kids are always wearing the latest fashions? Is it the mother who always follows the advice in the latest medical journals about feeding and sleeping and discipline?  Or maybe it’s the parent who makes sure that there are always homemade three-course meals on the table at dinner-time every night?

If you can do all the things I listed and stay sane, my hats off to you. But if these are the marks of a perfect parent than I am striking out on all counts. My house is always messy and never spotless. I’m the stay-at-home Mom who sometimes just doesn’t feel like doing anything but watching TV or playing video games during the day while her kids are in school. I’m the Mom who occasionally just doesn’t have the energy to stand over a stove for hours and make a big meal so we have peanut butter and jelly for dinner. I’m the Mom who spends all her time at home in her pajamas because what’s the point of getting dressed if you’re not going anywhere? My kids wear hand-me-downs and they sometimes have holes in their shoes.

My son is circumcised, we didn’t co-sleep, I bottle-fed all three of my kids without a single thought to breast-feeding, we let our kids cry it out, I don’t spank them, they’re up to date on all their vaccines and have been since they were born and we eat a lot of processed food. In short, I don’t meet a lot of people’s definition of a perfect parent and I’m okay with that. You know why? Because my kids are happy and they are healthy and the decisions that I’ve made for my kids were the right ones for us.

So often these days we parents are hit with advice from well-meaning relatives and complete strangers alike. Everyone has an opinion on how you should be raising your kids and other parents are our worst critics. There is so much pressure on us right out of the gate to meet societies standards for “perfect parenting.”

Is breast-feeding best for babies? Probably but it’s not an option for everyone so cut out the blame and laying of guilt. Are fresh foods better than processed? Undoubtedly but sometimes we just don’t feel like whipping up a masterpiece. Is natural medicine better for kids than over the counter stuff? Perhaps but a lot of people (like me) are okay with their chemicals. Are organic foods better for you and your kids? Maybe but I can tell you that organic’s a lot more expensive and therefore not always a viable option.

There are so many ways to be a perfect parent and, in the end, I think that the perfect parent is one that takes all that outside advice with a grain of salt and does what’s best for their family. Because nobody knows your family the way you do and nobody is better equipped to make those choices than you. None of us got an instruction manual when our kids were born. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with the information we’re given. So instead of tearing each other down because we don’t agree with the decisions others are making let’s try to build each other up.

Let’s stop being each other’s biggest critics and start being each other’s biggest supporters.






Unequally Yoked: A Love Story


Everyone who has been raised in faith has heard 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 

For most of us this means that we are to grow to a good age (in my case that age was 17), find another God-fearing, church-going person of faith and yoke ourselves with that person. We’re to spend our days worshiping God together and helping each other to build our faith through Bible study and church attendance. We are to avoid at all costs the darkness and unrighteousness presented by those who don’t believe the same way we do or who don’t believe at all. We are to keep that stain away from ourselves and our families.

Back in the by-gone era of my misspent youth, I was a dewy 13-year-old girl sitting in an art class next to a slightly older boy. As teenage girls are wont to do, I found myself flirting with this boy quite a lot. Eventually he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. Our short romance ended after about two weeks when my Mom found out that he was an atheist. We professed to be Mormons but we were mostly lapsed but one thing that my Mom was very sure about was that there was a God and those who didn’t believe in Him were bad. So I went to school and broke up with him and that was that.

Fast-forward to May of 2012, 6 months after a disastrous split from my own God-fearing, church-going husband of 11 years, I was at work at a large retail outlet, doing what I did and minding my own business when I noticed a man who was leaving the register and getting ready to leave the store. I knew this man. Had, in fact, been his girlfriend for a brief time when I was 13. I flagged him down and he was just as surprised to see me as I was to see him. We made a date to get together for a catching-up dinner the following Friday. I showed up, butterflies in my stomach because this was the first time I’d ever been out with a man who wasn’t my husband – and we went to dinner.

During our dinner conversation it came up that he was, indeed, still an atheist and I was, indeed, still not. At the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about that information since I’d been fully immersed in the fundamentalist Baptist faith for the last 11 years and I was still very much a believer, albeit a confused one. But over the course of that dinner and during the movie and long conversation that followed it, I realized that the childish attraction we’d felt for each other was still there – tempered by age, distance and experience. Neither of us were the kids we’d been so long ago and we both wanted to see what our relationship could be so we kept seeing each other.

Over the course of the next couple of years we dated and something completely unprecedented (for me anyway) happened; I was challenged in my faith. Not in a “your God doesn’t exist and you’re stupid for believing he does” way but in a “why do you believe the way you do?” way. This man, we’ll call him Tom, would ask me questions about my faith and I was dismayed at how often I didn’t even know the answers. I quickly realized that Tom knew more Bible passages than me, knew more about Jesus’ story than I did. Atheist or not, he knew more about the faith I had professed to follow my entire life than I did.

So I stopped just following the line I’d been led along my entire life. I took the lens of organized religion away from my eyes and began to venture outside my spiritual comfort zone and I realized that I didn’t believe – at all – in God the way I’d always been told he was. I didn’t believe in a cruel and vindictive God; a petty and jealous God. I believed in the God of love, of acceptance, of gentle joy. My God loved everyone equally as I did my own kids. He wasn’t some omnipotent, untouchable deity. He was my friend, my confidant, my Father.

Through the whole spiritual reawakening that I went through, through all my exploring and questioning and redefining of my faith, Tom stayed by me. He listened to me talk about my God, he questioned me and encouraged me and supported me. Not once did he ever tell me I should abandon my faith altogether and “come to the dark side” of unbelief. He knew that my faith was a part of me that he wasn’t going to change and he accepted and loved that about me.

My family – especially my Mom – were not happy that I was dating an atheist but being in a relationship with him had opened my eyes to so many things. Tom was one of the best people I knew, even without faith, and maybe because of his lack of belief. He did the good things he did because he knew it was the right thing to do, not because he feared some eternal retribution or hoped for Heaven when he died. He taught me to do good for the sake of the good, not to impress a Higher Power. He taught me that religion doesn’t necessarily give you morals and that faith doesn’t necessarily make you a better person.  Being with Tom, seeing faith from his side of things, didn’t push me away from God. It helped bring me closer to Him.

Tom and I have been together for nearly four years and are planning on getting married in the summer. If the last four years of being a Christian in a serious relationship with an atheist has taught me anything it’s that the term “unequally yoked” has been wildly misused.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 

Why do we religious people assume that only the religious own all that is righteous in the world? Why do we assume that the light is our sole property? Being equally yoked means being tied to someone who shares your morals, your ideals and your goals in life. It means being with someone who supports you and lift you up. It means being with someone who shares the load of life’s burdens and who’s there for you no matter what. It means being with someone who is going to pick up their side of that yoke and make their way with you, step by step, through life. And your partner doesn’t have to worship God – or the same God as you – to do that.













To Give Without Receiving


It’s a cold, cloudy day in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. You’re sitting in a booth at your local Chik-fil-A, enjoying a nice warm meal when the door opens and in walks a man who is obviously homeless – over-filled backpack on his back, holey shoes, dirty, ratty clothes, matted hair. The man walks to the counter and asks if they have any extra food that they’d be willing to give him. Out comes a manager and the homeless man asks his question again. The manager says “Sure! But first you’re going to have to let me pray with you.” The man agrees and they two bow their heads right there in the middle of the restaurant after which the manager gives the man some food and they both go their separate ways. What would you think about this if it were actually you sitting in this resturaunt? Would you think it was a beautiful gesture of kindness on the part of the manager?

This exact scenario played out two days ago. A homeless man was told by a Chik-fil-A manager that the manager would give him food but only if they prayed together first. The manager is having praise heaped on him for his gracious act of kindness. But was it really a gracious act of kindness? What would the manager have done if the homeless man had refused to pray with him? Would he have turned him out into the cold with an empty stomach? And wouldn’t it have been more of an act of kindness if the manager had just given the homeless man some food without the attached caveat?

Requiring the homeless man to pray before being offered food may seem like such a small thing but, if you really think about it, it’s not small at all. Essentially what this manager was doing was withholding food from a cold, starving man until the man agreed to participate in this very public, very unnecessary display of religion. Did the homeless man take anything away from this prayer session or was he doing it because he felt he had no other choice if he wanted food? What the manager essentially did was bribe this man so he could feel better about himself.

This kind of thing is not what Jesus preached. Jesus didn’t say to the leper “I will heal you but you have to bow your head and pray first.” He didn’t say to his disciples who were worried about having enough food to feed the masses “I’ll feed them but only if they prove their faith to me.” No, he just separated the loaves and fishes and fed everyone.

In a statement, Chik-fil-A said that the restaurant’s values are based on “Christian beliefs” and that the manager was acting on those beliefs but how “Christian” is this behavior? How Christ-like is this man being by forcing this homeless man to preform a public prayer before giving him something to eat?

We Christians are not called upon to preform overt gestures of our faith. We’re not called upon to prove how pious and devout we are by public displays of our piety. In fact, in Mathew 6:1, Jesus says “Beware of practicing your righteousness in front of other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.”

It is my opinion that this manager would better have shown how Christ-like he was if he’d taken the homeless man in and given him the food without thought or question. He would have better showed the spirit of Christ in himself if he hadn’t made a public display of his piety and forced the homeless man to participate. He can’t say that his actions are based on Christ when he so obviously had an ulterior motive – to prove his faith to the people gathered at his restaurant.  Because Christ never made those he healed or fed prove their faith before preforming his miracles and neither should we.

                          You received without paying, give without pay. ~Mathew 10:8

Original story: